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Carol's Story

My name is Carol and I have a dual disorder. I am bipolar and an addict. I am also in recovery thanks to my Higher Power. I have been clean and sober for almost 3 years. I wasn’t an abused child but growing up was hard. I think it’s hard for almost everyone.

Except for being a rather moody girl, I never got in much trouble. Like a lot of people, I started drinking, partying, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol in high school. My parents were probably a little too permissive but they were loving and supportive.

When I was in college I had my first full-blown manic attack and ended up in the hospital. I had been using amphetamines and tranquillizers regularly for several months and everything just seemed to escalate until I no longer was in control. The circumstances of being taken to the hospital are still so embarrassing to me it is hard to talk about. I swore that I’d never let myself get in that position again.

My parents had no idea that I was having problems until they got the call from the hospital emergency room. I really scared them. They came and packed up my things from the dorm and took me home. They put me in a 30-day residential treatment program where they specialized in treating people with a dual diagnosis. I learned a lot in treatment and was exposed to the 12 steps and DRA. I thought I’d go through treatment and get right back to school in time for the following term, maybe attend an occasional 12 step meeting and be ok. It didn’t work out that way.

It took me over a year to get comfortable in my own skin again and an additional year to regain my confidence.

I had to change or adjust my medications several times and I relapsed on alcohol once after getting 90 days clean. This episode landed me in the hospital again. This time it was more humiliating than the first because it was in my hometown in front of friends and family.

The police hauled me away in restraints, screaming and sobbing, wearing nothing but a bed sheet my mother gave them to cover me up with. That stay in the hospital is where I finally honestly surrendered and took my First Step. A few months before when I was in treatment I said it, and read it, but didn’t really feel it.

The First Step says “We admitted we were powerless over our dual illness of chemical dependency and emotional or psychiatric illness – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Initially I felt that as long as I stayed away from the speed and tranqs that my manic depression wouldn’t cause problems. I thought I could still party and drink a few lite beers or glasses of wine. I was never much of a drinker anyway so when they told me I was also an alcoholic I didn’t really believe them. I was too young, pretty, and smart to be an alcoholic. I thought that only one or two areas of my life were getting out of control and that I could easily handle a little drinking to have fun. My relapse taught me differently.

I had to fully concede to my innermost self that I had some deadly serious problems and that I couldn’t handle them without help. A lot of the things they taught me in treatment suddenly made a lot more sense and I realized I’d have to get really serious about my recovery.

After that, I began going to every aftercare and 12 step meeting I could get myself to. I decided that since I was out of school and not working that I’d make my recovery my occupation for a while.

I am so grateful to have the support of my parents. I know that not everyone is so lucky. Before long I helped start a new Dual Recovery Anonymous meeting with the help and blessings of the hospital staff. They let us use one of their public meeting rooms for our meetings.

Several members from my AA home group became involved too. I’ve learned that my manic depression and my chemical dependency are diseases that are not my fault. I no longer have to feel ashamed of having a dual diagnosis or being in dual recovery. My parents, brothers, and friends are learning that I will not break if they say the wrong thing or if I’m exposed to stress or bad news.

Just because I have a mental illness, does not mean that I am weak or simple-minded. I’ve learned that I have to educate the people around me a little bit because of the stigma of mental illness.

Not that I make a big deal out of it but people sincerely don’t know how to treat me sometimes and are kind of timid to bring the subject up.

I really love the freedom that recovery is giving me. The more I get used to making the Steps part of my daily life the easier living seems to become. I apply the 12 Step principles to my addictions and my mental illness one day at a time. I feel better now about life and myself in general than I did before I first went to college.

I am now sponsoring two women in DRA and thinking about starting another meeting on Friday nights. I’ve learned that service work and helping others is one of the most rewarding and healing things I can do for myself.

I’ve started working part-time at a veterinarian’s office and if things keep going well perhaps I’ll go back to school next fall.

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